Chuck's Corner

A Thanksgiving Message from Mr. B

November 2020

A 30% return is quite impressive. Who wouldn't take that investment if it only required a small change in one's life? A couple of years ago, our family made such a change. My wife, Erin, took courses through the University of Pennsylvania and The Flourishing Center in New York. During her research, an interesting statistic popped out. Expressing gratitude daily increases a person's well-being by 30%. That seemed crazy. How would it work? What exactly would one need to do to reap the benefits? What exactly is "gratitude?" We decided as a family to give it a try; what could we lose? 

We are lucky to eat dinner together as a family most nights, and we have a family tradition to bless the food. We decided that following the blessing, every family member would go around and explicitly say what he or she was "thankful for." I don't want to give any false impressions here. Most evenings, the kids pick something mundane or easy to be thankful for. They scan the kitchen for an idea and race each other to be the first to share the easy ones. These include, "I am grateful for Ida and Frodo (our dogs)" or a barely audible "mom's spaghetti" as my son shovels a full bite into his mouth and speaks with his mouth full (note to self: we also need to work on manners) or "my friends" or "mom and dad." As anyone who has teenagers knows, a response beyond a one-word answer is a win for any parent starving for information. Cynicism aside, Erin and I decided to stick with the "gratitude talk." Two years later, it has become a family tradition.

Every once in a while, we get a nugget, and surprisingly, during COVID, those nuggets are coming pretty frequently. Instead of the muffled "thank you for making pasta," we recently heard, "I really appreciate the fact that we have dinner together every night as a family. I know how hard you worked to cook this meal, and I have enjoyed all of this family time together during COVID." Silence followed that one — and the next sound heard was Erin's jaw hitting the kitchen table. Here are a few more. Instead of "I am grateful for Ida and Frodo," our youngest acknowledged, "After a difficult day at school, I love that I can go upstairs to my bedroom and hug Ida for 30 minutes. She listens and doesn't say anything back at all; she just listens. We are so lucky to have our dogs." Another shared, "I am really grateful for Latin's Cheer Team and the girls on the team. I was worried about moving schools during my junior year and making friends. The girls on the team are awesome. It's not cliquey at all, and everyone really looks out for each other and is so encouraging." 

Science says that the real advantage is in the details. The more specific you are about your gratitude, the bigger impact it has. While those moments don't happen often, when they do, it's beautiful to experience. When your child acknowledges how lucky she is and how grateful he is, it puts everything into perspective. 

This fall, Erin and I noticed a definite shift in our family gratitude talks. The mundane, frequently taken for granted aspects of school and life at Latin, come up often. "I am so grateful we have the opportunity to have class in person. I can't believe I am saying this, but I am grateful for school." Another one mentioned was, "I am grateful my teacher met me before school today to go over my quiz. They didn't need to do that." or "COVID is stressful on students, but you can tell how stressful this is for faculty. They have to teach us in class and the students at home. It is crazy how difficult it is to go back and forth between the two. They are really making a difference." 

November always makes me think about gratitude, with the month culminating in Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday), when we spend time with family, eat great food, and live in the moment. Gratitude comes from reflection, and as I reflect on 2020, it's been a year of great disruption and hardship. COVID has not just inconvenienced our lives; it has brought sickness and death, stress and anxiety, disconnection, and isolation — the list could go on and on. But 2020 also highlighted and prioritized what is important — truly important — in life. This year, more than any other in my career has shown me what a community can accomplish together that it could never approach if we worked as individuals. While I certainly receive phone calls where a parent or faculty member can only see what is in it for their child or how it affects them as an individual, every day, every week, every month I hear from parents, faculty, volunteers, students, alumni — members of the Latin community — who sacrifice their individual wants and desires for that of the greater good. Paradoxically, and altruistically, something amazing happens as a result of that sacrifice, collectively we receive far more from Latin than if we each got what we wanted. I see it when volunteers give their free time to monitor lunch and conduct temperature screenings. I see it in the generosity of our community as their donations to the Latin Fund offset the incredible costs incurred during COVID. I see it in the grace given by parents, faculty, and students to each other. 

Quite simply put, I am grateful for Charlotte Latin School. While the research says the return on well-being should be 30%, I want to acknowledge the return has been far greater and more substantial than any data point can capture.

P.S. If you are interested more in the power of gratitude, here are some wonderful resources. 

Back to School 2020

August 21, 2020

We've enjoyed a successful first week back at school!

 

A Note from Mr. B: Back to School 2020

August 12, 2020

Mr. B’s charge to the faculty about Courage and Resilience delivered during Latin’s opening faculty meeting:

I was boarding a plane a couple of summers ago as I was making a connection through Atlanta. I was just shuffling along feeling the pressure of the countless passengers behind me pushing their way on board. I was looking at my feet and then I looked up. And there he was, seated in the last row of First Class. I did a double-take and stopped right in my tracks. I could feel the person behind me slam into my back as the back-up trickled down the row. I had been privileged enough to hear him speak in person once and certainly numerous times on television, but I was now two feet from history — a hero in my midst — a living legend. John Lewis was easing into his seat and organizing his belongings. I stared right at him, speechless. It was as if time stopped for me. I did not want this moment to pass without saying something. He looked up at me and smiled and I was jarred back to reality. The person behind me poked me in my back. I wanted to turn around and say, “Do you know who this is?!” I gathered my composure and looked Mr. Lewis in the eye and said what was in my heart, “Mr. Lewis, I want to thank you for your service to this country. You are a role model for the ages and have made this country a better place for all to live. Thank you!”

He smiled, nodded his head, and said thank you. As I shuffled back to my seat and got myself settled, I began to cry. I have this weird reaction when I see someone like that who has literally changed history, someone who has sacrificed so much for the common good. It also happens when I watch a compelling documentary or film about someone who has changed the course of history for the good. I cried watching his funeral this summer as well, with all that occurred this summer with COVID and arguably the most significant civil protests in decades. His funeral was very emotional for me and encapsulated all that was going on in the world.

We talk a lot about courage in education; we talk a lot about resilience in our students. John Lewis is a man of real courage in my opinion. He was quiet. He spoke with his actions not with bravado. He was calm in the face of chaos. In his 20s, he was leading freedom rides, organizing and speaking at the March on Washington, and famously led the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge where he got his skull cracked in. Most importantly, he stood back up and marched again. He kept marching and getting into “good trouble” until his last breath. His whole life has been about courage and resilience. Taking a stand, failing or falling down, and getting back up.

This is in stark contrast to what most of us and our students are willing to handle. I can still hear my son remark in early June, “This is going to be the worst summer ever!” My daughter was right behind him exclaiming, “This is going to be the worst senior year!”

It’s hard to believe they are only a couple of years younger than the young freedom rider John Lewis. Many have commented that this pandemic is our country’s first test of courage since 9/11. We have to dig deep to face this challenge and the resilience not to give up. Courage and Resilience are critical to our getting through this pandemic successfully. Courage in my mind is predicated on acknowledging fear. One has to be scared, frightened, or anxious in order to have courage. In my mind, courage is facing that fear and continuing in spite of it. That is also why it is so connected to resilience. Courage is about not giving up; it is about resilience. The two are so inextricably intertwined. I want to state for the record that I am not comparing what John Lewis faced in his life and what he accomplished with going to school in a pandemic. But it is the challenge we are faced with now and the one in front of us. Courage and resilience are what we will need as we head into our 6th month of COVID. As we strap on our face coverings again; as we plan classes, for both remote and in-person learning; as we build on the work we did in the spring.

Our students will also need to build their resilience — as yet another milestone event is canceled, a sports season is altered, or a concert is recreated. This is a time to teach resilience. Acknowledge the loss, but encourage them to reimagine school.

The other truth is that great memories will come from this fall and this year. All will not be lost and actually much will be gained. We all have so much. We need some struggle in our lives. 2020 has been a year that has given us plenty to struggle with. The value of this year is not the struggle as much as it is the survival. Resilience is in us; we just did not recognize it. Courage is in us; we just had to face the fear in front of us.

My attitude is this: Struggle is a gift. Failure is a gift. Inconvenience is a gift. Finding courage and resilience inside us all are a gift. By the way, my son’s summer — his last year of camp after 13 years — ended up being, “the best summer ever!” I have a feeling my daughter will echo the same 9 months from now. It may take a while to fully realize it, but I believe we will all be acknowledging that truth when we look back upon these difficult times. Maybe there will be some “good” to come out of this “trouble.”

Here is to a great year – Go Hawks!

Forever Forward. Forever Latin: A Reflection on My First Year

May 1, 2020

One of my first yard chores, after we moved in this summer, was putting up our 50th Anniversary yard sign. Before hammering it in through the fresh mulch, I took a moment to study the logo. I have been a part of several school anniversary celebrations throughout my life. My former school in Lexington celebrated its 50th while I was Head, and The Asheville School had its 100th while I was a teacher. I earned my master’s during St. John’s 300th year, and I was in Episcopal’s 150th graduating class. I consider myself a connoisseur of milestone logos. I must admit when I first read the tagline for Latin’s 50th year, I thought it was catchy. Obviously, it helps that the L in Latin and the Roman numeral for 50 work together beautifully. The iconic column that gives the Latin L its strength sends a message of tradition and longevity — perfect for a 50th Anniversary. Although the tagline was catchy, “Forever Forward. Forever Latin,” it did not carry much meaning for me last summer. As a new Head of School with no history, they were merely words.

What a difference a year makes.  

Especially this 50th year. I write this reflection on a beautiful spring day from the sunroom in my home. Outside, it is a balmy 80 degrees, with a light breeze — beautiful — except like all Charlotteans, I am respecting the “shelter in place” order of the governor and the mayor. Spring Break is over, but instead of walking around campus watching soccer, tennis, and lacrosse balls fly by, or watching our Lower School students rehearse songs for Grandparents’ Day, I’m at home. Instead of sending off our debate team to a competition, or attending Parents’ Council meetings and events, I am contemplating silence.

What a difference a year makes.

Our juniors and seniors aren’t working up the nerve to ask that crush to prom. Instead, they are hoping against hope that the ban is lifted in time to experience One Acts, College T-shirt Day, or Concert in the Quad — in person instead of virtually. Do we even dare talk about the reality of Commencement?

What a difference a year makes.

Founders Day seems like it was 50 years ago. What an introduction to Latin’s spirit! We welcomed back all who were in attendance that day of promise 50 years ago when Charlotte Latin School opened its doors. Stories abounded about the school’s humble roots. As Bob Knight likes to recall, “It rained that day, September 9, 1970. Campus was a bald hill of red clay and it was messy, but it was our hill, and the mess of red clay meant progress!” That day, the school was a field of dreams. Dreams of a future. Other stories were also being told. Stories of libraries, theaters, and gymnasiums being built; land being purchased; grit and determination. There was also pride in alumni voices — as there should be.

Chuck Baldecchi, Bob Knight, and Fletcher Gregory 

Look at Latin today. A shiny new Inlustrate Orbem Building sending “light into the world!” One hundred and twenty-eight acres of campus. What was once a fledgling school “out in the boonies” is a juggernaut in the Independent School world. On September 27, Board Vice Chair Denny Smith O’Leary ’90 opened the dedication ceremony and Mr. Lawrence Wall, Head of Upper School (20 years of service), cut the ribbon on the Inlustrate Orbem Building. “CLS has always sought to cultivate the individual but not unto him or herself alone. Community has always been central to our vision,” Mr. Wall said. Also in attendance, were Mr. Fletcher Gregory (29 years of service) and Dr. Ken Collins (49 years of service) as well as many others who helped make Latin into the school it is today. The legacies of Dr. E.J. “Ned” Fox, Jr., and Mr. Arch McIntosh loomed large. Latin was moving forward because of the great work of those who served the institution in the past. That same spirit was alive the night of the Oyster Roast.

More than 1,200 alumni, former and current faculty, trustees, and parents mingled with each other on a crisp November evening as sounds of The Blue Dogs wafted through the transformed Beck Student Activities Center. We are all founders of Charlotte Latin School — everyone who has been a student, taught, volunteered, paid tuition — everyone who has loved this school — is a founder of Charlotte Latin School. Every event during this year has evoked that spirit from the artists who sang at the Les Misérables in Concert alumni performance, to the alumni speakers at Learn@Latin and MLK assembly, to the parent volunteers who put on a record-breaking Celebrate Latin. Celebrations all during a year of celebration.

Forever Forward. Forever Latin.

As I write this during the first week of April, those 50th celebrations seem so long ago. But the point is not lost on me that Latin has endured — not only endured but also flourished through good times as well as challenging ones. The stories told of yesterday are woven into the fabric of this incredible institution we all love. In recent weeks, I have seen a faculty pivot on a dime to roll out an incredible online curriculum. They were able to pivot because of the training that our Educational Technology specialists gave them. Students have been resilient and adapted to this new Remote Learning reality because their supportive families value and model a strong work ethic. Further assets include a dedicated Parents’ Council and our Board of Trustees, chaired for the first time by a Charlotte Latin alumnus, Thad Sharrett ’89. The story sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The strength of Latin today has been there from the beginning. The pride and loyalty present in the stories told on this year’s Founders Day and at the 50th Anniversary Oyster Roast will be similar to those told at our 75th and 100th. And they will include, “Remember when the school came together during the Coronavirus Pandemic in 2020?”

Forever Forward. Forever Latin.

As I walk around my neighborhood, they may be pollen-covered, but Latin 50th yard signs are proudly displayed and blow in the breeze. In the fall, those signs gave this new Head of School a “heads-up” that the family in that house was part of the Latin community. It seemed like every other house had some Latin connection. Nine months ago, I did not know names or stories. Walking around today it feels different. What a difference a year makes. It feels like home. We are all in this together. This is true for both the Baldecchi family and Charlotte Latin School. My children have made friends and share common stories with their teammates and classmates. My wife, Erin, can’t think of a smoother transition or a more caring school community of which to be a part. This new Head of School loves his job and wakes up every day grateful for the opportunity to lead a school community he admires and loves and understands more about every day.

So getting back to the tagline on the lawn sign — now I know what it really means.

Forever Forward. Forever Latin.
Mr. Chuck Baldecchi headshot
Chuck Baldecchi,
Head of School

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